Philippine bishops sound alarm over social, environmental impacts of airport project

April 12, 2022

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) on Monday demanded the suspension of the construction of an airport project, which allegedly displaced at least 700 families north of the national capital.  

In a statement, the prelates called for the “suspension of the dredging and dump-filling operation until all the people’s demands are satisfied.” 

EBF claimed that “no free, prior and informed consent or consultation with affected communities was ever held,” while the project allegedly already displaced a number of farmers and fisherfolk. 

The US$15-billion New Manila International Airport by San Miguel Corporation, which is located in the coastal areas of Bulacan province, aims to decongest Manila’s main entry and exit point for air travelers.

The airport is one of the flagship infrastructure projects of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

The prelates said the airport project will destroy fertile land and coastal areas endowed with rich biodiversity, which provides food security for the people near and far.

Apart from the imminent ecological destruction, “there is no relocation site nor stable job opportunities in place for the affected residents,” according to the bishops. 

The prelates urged the project proponent to “release the master plan of the project” and provide “compensation for damages incurred on the people’s livelihood, homes, and the environment.”

“The Church, exercising her prophetic role, should condemn and oppose such acts of injustice and oppression committed in the guise of development,” the bishops said. 

The prelates urged the public to support the affected community in “their struggle for their right to the land and fishing grounds and for the environment and ecological justice.”

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said the 2,500-hectare international airport reclamation project, also known as the Bulacan Aerotropolis, will affect at least a million people across the towns and cities of Bulacan.

“A crucial problem would be the proposed infrastructure’s conflicting land use with the last vestiges of the once vast mangrove forests covering Northern Manila Bay,” he said.

Dulce noted that the wetlands, which are threatened to be destroyed, “have long served as the roosting sites for thousands of migratory birds.”

A study conducted by the University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology projected that less than one percent of Manila Bay’s original mangrove forest cover, once a sprawling 75,000 to 90,000, is presently left at less than 1,000 hectares.

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